January 20, 2012

Detachment, the little I understand of it

I had a superb conversation with my best friend (most of our conversations are somewhat amazing) and thought I absolutely had to share this one.

Here's some background information first: We celebrated a decade of bestfriendship last year.

How and when we met: At the tender age of twelve in the home economics class at school. I remember it like it was yesterday!

Scenario:First week of school, I, nonchalantly packing my stuff up after having cut out the pattern for the apron we were supposed to sew during the year. I turn around and see this tiny girl(I was already tall for my age), with bangs and glasses, desperately struggling with her scissors. I asked "Need help?", she said "Please!" I cut her patterns, she packed my stuffs, ever since we've been inseparable. I also remember us deciding to be best friends on the stairs, not sure if it was the same day though. There's a third (important) member to our little gang but that's another great story. I call them my soulsisters.

Here's an extract from the chat log:

sheekha: Actually I didn't understand the concept of detachment that The Venerable was talking about, wanted some clarifications
me: Sure, what do you understand by the word detachment?
sheekha: Hmmm not to feel sad or affected if the thing you're attached to moves away from you that is in terms of material things. In terms of relationships, for me detachment is keeping distance as a means to protect myself from hurt. me: Not far but not exactly. In fact detachment in Buddhism doesn't not have the same notation as in English.
It can also be called non-attachment and attachment is not associated with love but with a need to possess, a sense of dependence. The goal is to reach ultimate freedom. Detachment is seen as one of the freedoms. When you see reality and realise that nothing is permanent, you become peaceful and detachment happens. It's not like you said "staying away from relationships in order to protect yourself", that's protection. You are protecting your own ego whereas in detachment you love even more, you go even closer because you are free from the need to possess, free from your ego. For example, being detached from your parents doesn't mean that you don't care about them that you keep a distance. It means that you realise that they are humans, they will age and someday pass away. It's seeing the reality and still caring. When they pass away of course you will be hurt, being detached doesn't mean that you don't feel anything, it means that you accept things as they are. You'll be hurt but you'll know that it's only temporary and you will do as much good as you can instead of drowning yourself in your own sorrow.
Another example would be of a mother and her son. A mother is so attached to her child that she doesn't let the child go out of her sight from fear of him hurting himself.
Is the mother protecting her child?
Is the mother protecting herself?
Definitely. She is scared of losing her son. It's her attachment for her son which creates the fear in her,
Is she doing her child any good?
Probably not
What would a healthy mother do?
She would warn her child of the dangers, ask him to be careful and let him out to play. In case he falls, she will gently care for his wounds.
Does the first mother love her son more than the second mother?
Not necessarily.
sheekha: So it's kind of growing up, of feeling independent and self-sufficient
me: Not exactly ultimately but kind of. Because at the end you even have to detach from what you've learnt: concepts, ideas, words like independence. It's like giving up freedom to be free. There are many levels. The ones I'm telling you about are the grossest, the most "tangible" if you want: relationships with others. But then there are bodily attachments, mind attachments, thought attachments which are far more subtle.
sheekha: Yes, it's vast and a bit vague at the same time
me: It is.
sheekha: I think the degree of non-attachment depends on what stage of life you are in
me: Definitely. And it's not something that just happens. It's after reflection and experience that detachment can even start to occur. It's not giving up on things you love. It's not going on exile or keeping away from people.
sheekha: That's how English has defined it but not from a Buddhist perspective
me: Yes, in English it has a negative connotation and the word attachment has a positive one
sheekha: That's the thing, I didn't quite understand that part and it seemed intriguing since that day. At the end of the day, the best investment that anyone can do in oneself
me: Yes, but the intention should be bigger. Why do you wanna invest in yourself? Is it to find peace for yourself? Or is it to make something bigger?
Sheekha: No, it's not that I'm not at peace with myself, it's a way of refining skills. You know what's your worth but there's no harm in fine-tuning everything.You should know where you want to go and know where to stop.
me: I want it all! The whole way! But it's the path that matters. The journey to self discovery and the discovery of others. How at the end of the day, we are all only suffering and why add up to the load of others by being a pain in the !@#? But it's easier to put in practice when things are stable around you. When you are in a negative state of mind it takes more effort being compassionate
sheekha: Right, that's another one- compassion, what is it?
me: That's a very nice one. What do you understand by that one?
sheekha: In fact, I don't really understand it, is it sympathy?
me: It's more than that...

And the conversation goes on about compassion(for another hour or so)but that's for some other time.
At some point I asked if I could post this conversation on my blog. That's when she discovered I actually had a blog. She got a little mad (justified! How can I forget to tell such things??!) but she gladly accepted :D

And yes, I know I talk a lot (occasionally only!) but after ten plus years you kind of get used to it, isn't it Bestie?
Thank you for inspiring this conversation. What's the point of experimenting with something interesting if you don't have someone interested to share it with?


  1. That sure was one very enriching convo.
    After a decade of bestfriendship, yeah you do get used to someone's habits (as far as talking a lot is concerned, I don't think you'll be able to give up on that one) but at the same time you discover new aspects on both that person and yourself.
    And the journey of discovery and self-discovery does not end here.
    Agreed, what's the point of trying new things when you got no one to share them with?
    This reminds me of something Mrs Chu (our English Literature teacher) said in one of her classes when we were studying Travels with my Aunt, "Travelling to new countries is great fun when you have someone to share the moments with, imagine yourself going to Egypt, standing in front of the pyramids, jumping up and down out of amazement and to share that happy moment you have a camel munching grass as the only companion." :D
    May you have the merits girl ;)

    1. Indeed Bestie, given that scenario one of us only would look pretty stupid, whereas the both of us there, we'd look like we made those pyramids ourselves :D
      You really got the merit thingie ;)

  2. This is such a good conversation! Sheek lol I see the effect ;) Ju that description that Buddhism gives, it fits very well and is so lovely! Reading this feels like finding a missing puzzle piece and going "Ah! That's what it was!" (Its Yash in case my id doesn't show hehe)

    1. Indeed, it all makes sense right?
      The application of it is harder than the theoretical level though.


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